[Taken from Google]
I just finished reading the second of Mark Pryor's "Hugo Marston" novels, entitled, The Crypt Thief. I've never actually heard of Mark Pryor prior to reading this book, (excuse the pun.. haha) however I am glad I stumbled upon it.
Browsing in the Barnes & Nobles located on East 17th Street, I made my way toward the mystery section and was simply in search of a title that caught my eye. I was tempted to purchase another hard case criminal novel, any from the published collection that sat next to King's Joyland on the shelf, but I decided that I wanted to find something different. I looked toward the new 'releases' and was immediately drawn to the word "thief" in this title.
'The Crypt Thief' I read aloud to myself. Where have I heard a similar title....?
And then I remembered. The Thief Lord! How could I forget. The Thief Lord was one of my favorite books I've ever read as a child. In fact, I'm pretty sure I read it like, three times. It was about this group of runaway kids in Venice, Italy who mastered the art of pickpocketing for their mysterious 'leader' aka the "thief lord." I literally remember feeling so attached to each of those characters as I read it multiple times, and it's a story that I will probably never forget. Anyway, with that story in mind, I picked up Pryor's book off the shelf and stared at the simplicity of the cover.
I'm one to always buy books that not only look good in content, but that are pretty from cover to cover as well. And although The Crypt Thief wasn't the prettiest book on the shelf, I was drawn to the words on the front and back more so than the illustrations. I did like, however, the black gothic crypt gate illustration on the front, for it's almost cartoon-like (making the book seemingly creepier). I flipped it over, read the back, and decided it would be a good purchase.
First off, let me just say, that The Crypt Thief's cover does not do this book justice in more than one way. Not only is it extremely well written with nuances of satire, it is also extremely disturbing (and this is coming from me, who's just about seen every horror movie ever produced).
Perhaps to begin with, Pryor's style of narrative was one of my favorite things about this book. Pryor sort of takes the view point of a third person omniscient narrator, for he does not enter only the mind of Hugo Marston, our hero, but also enters and unravels the mind of our killer, also known as "The Scarab". Chapter one is entirely the Scarab's perspective, and the reader is immediately thrown into observing the killer's actions without knowing who he is or what his motives are. I believe this is a genius tactic, for the audience is forced into the inner workings of the Scarab's psyche almost instantaneously.
I also found this book extremely relatable when it came to the team of detectives that solve this case. Set in Paris, Hugo Marston-- our protagonist, is an American who is the head of the US embassy and is called in to investigate when an American tourist and suspected terrorist are found dead in a crypt. His right hand man, Tom Green, is a CIA agent that works aside him throughout, and then there's Claudia, a journalist who befriends and works with with them on the case. The dynamic between these characters is extremely humanistic, for there is a lot of wit and sarcasm sprinkled throughout their conversations, which is not something you find in many crime novels. Generally in detective fiction, the detectives all usually just "get along" and "work together" to find their culprits; however, Pryor sets Marston and his comrades apart. They are all very independent and each have their own distinctive and strong personalities that often cause them to butt heads. Contrastive to the cold, hard detective, Hugo, Tom, and Claudia's characters are all extremely humanized through humor and their relationship with one another.
And finally, I want to discuss what I mean by this book being more disturbing than I had anticipated. [SPOILER ALERT!] Upon reading the title, The Crypt Thief, I immediately assumed that it would connote some sort of gravedigger activity-- which I soon figured out that I was correct in my assumption, however, it wasn't what I thought it would be. Our killer, the Scarab, does not dig up bodies just to do so, he actually is in search of body parts throughout the book.... yeah, warned you. I won't give too much away, but as it turns out, we have a Dr. Frankenstein (or Dr. Frank-N-futer, if you prefer) complex at play. It's actually rather interesting for it emphasizes the strong theme of psychology in this book. I actually found that Pryor revealed a lot of the same messages as other detective fiction books, all revolving around mental needs versus mental wants and how those two entities alone can lead to self-destruction. In addition though, Pryor alludes to the relationship between the past, present, and future. Specifically, how one or any of these quantifications of time can affect the other drastically.
Some pretty deep themes come out of a wannabe Dr. Frankenstein.
Overall, Pryor's plot does digress occasionally from the main story of the Scarab and can be a bit obscure at times, however, it all is basically summed up in the end and creates a nice dénouement and "action-packed ending" (I cringe at the unoriginality of those words, but I don't know how else to describe it!). The characters are easily relatable and the book was a fast and good read for me, so I would recommend it if the title happens to catch your eye;).
"Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare,
[King Lear 3.4]
[King Lear 3.4]